Photo by: Seth Herald/Getty Images
Following a horrific school shooting in Nashville last month, three Democratic lawmakers joined a protest on the House floor.
On April 6th, Tennessee’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to expel two of them – both Black men.
Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson chanted “power to the people”, as demonstrators gathered at the State Capitol. Among them was Rep. Gloria Johnson, a White woman, who was the only lawmaker spared from expulsion.
Jones, 27, was first expelled from the legislature on Thursday by a vote of 72 to 25. Pearson, 28, was also dismissed by a vote of 69 to 26. The legislators were accused of flouting the chamber’s norms regarding behavior and decorum by the GOP supermajority.
“A state in which the Ku Klux Klan was founded is now attempting another power grab by silencing the two youngest Black representatives,” Jones stated.
Johnson’s expulsion was down by one vote, 65 to 30.
The Republican leadership denied that race was a consideration. However, in an interview with CNN, Johnson shared that she thought it was pretty clear.
“I’m a 60-year-old white woman. And they are two young Black men,” she said.
Upon the result, yells and cries erupted from the audience in the visitors’ gallery. They began chanting “Shame!” and “Fascists!” after having sat quietly for hours and having kept everyone who cried out while the proceedings were going on in the background.
The expulsions were criticized by President Biden in Washington as being “shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent.”
“Rather than debating the merits of the issue (of gun control), these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee,” Biden stated.
Prior to voting on the expulsion measures, House members discussed more than 20 legislation, including a school safety measure mandating that both public and private schools submit building safety plans to the state. As the law didn’t mention gun control, some Democrats criticized it for simply addressing a symptom and not the root cause of school shootings.
Votes for expulsion have been cast in the past under quite diverse conditions.
Efforts are now underway by lawmakers and activists across the country, who are calling for Jones and Pearson to be reappointed to the House.
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